As a writer, Kätlin Kaldmaa seems to almost walk a razor-thin blade – her feminine identity is piercing and depthless, and she staunchly raises sharp social-critical topics. Kaldmaa constantly calls forth this sensitivity and everything associated with it – topics of pain and death just as much as love.
Born in Voore, Jõgeva County in rural Estonia, Kaldmaa went to university for Estonian language and literature, semiotics, as well as English language and literature. She is a tireless organiser of public literary events, a director of Estonian PEN, and a member of the Estonian Writers’ Union. In 2016 Kätlin Kaldmaa was elected the International Secretary of PEN International. Kaldmaa has also translated more than 50 works into Estonian from the English, Spanish, and Finnish.
Kaldmaa made her debut under the pseudonym “Kätlin Kätlin” together with five other young authors in 1996. Her second poetry collection, the distinctive and complex Üks pole ühtegi. One is None, was published in 2008 and already bore the signs of a mature author. Kaldmaa has called herself a “poet of ideas” whose poems take shape from the thoughts that gnaw at her, searching for form and an opportunity to be expressed in the written word. She is, however, also fascinated by playing with language and form, along with the creation of her own (linguistic) worlds. A complex author, Kaldmaa also regularly pens literary critiques.
Having later turned to prose, Kaldmaa’s poetess past can be perceived in her more recent texts. “Magical realism” is one theme that adequately describes these pieces. Kaldmaa’s short stories have already received Estonia’s main prize for the genre – the Friedebert Tuglas Award. Her short-story collection A Little Sharp Knife was published in 2014.
Having grown up in the country herself, Kaldmaa’s first children’s book took a look at rural life: Four Kids and Murka (2010).
Her debut novel No Butterflies in Iceland (2013) tells of five generations of one Icelandic family – filled with longing, it whisks the reader off to an island of trolls and volcanoes in the middle of the ocean, and is simultaneously a journey into the soul of an island-dweller. One of the characters is the enchanting island itself. The novel forms a conceptual whole together with her earlier poetry collection The Alphabet of Love (2012) and children's book The Story of Somebody Nobodysdaughter’s Father (2012). All three are inspired by Iceland and were partly written in an artist residency on the island.
The Alphabet of Love, which is bilingual already in its original form, has now been translated into Finnish and Arabic. It is a sharp, sarcastic book about traveling, different worlds, and lovers.